We have seen that in 1:1 Paul said that he was “separated to the gospel of God,” and then he goes on to say that the gospel of God concerns God’s Son, Jesus Christ our Lord (1:3). This indicates that the gospel of God is a gospel of sonship. The goal of this gospel is to transform sinners into sons of God for the formation of the Body of Christ.
As we consider this matter of sonship, certain important words command our attention: designation, resurrection, sanctification, transformation, conformation, glorification, and manifestation. We are being designated sons of God through the process of resurrection. In this process a number of steps are involved. These steps include sanctification, transformation, conformation, and glorification. This glorification will also be the manifestation. Today people may not realize that we are Christians. But on the day of our glorification, no one will need to ask us whether or not we are Christians, for we shall be manifested as sons of God. That manifestation will be the consummation of the process of designation by resurrection.
Sanctification, transformation, conformation, and glorification are not four altogether separate steps. Rather, as sanctification is going on, we are also being transformed. Moreover, as we are being transformed, the process of conformation begins to take place. Eventually, as the spontaneous continuation and consummation of these processes, we shall reach the stage of glorification or manifestation. When sanctification, transformation, and conformation reach their peak, that will be the time of our glorification. This glorification will be our manifestation as sons of God. We are presently undergoing the process of designation by resurrection, a process which will ultimately bring us to the point of manifestation. The key to this process is resurrection. Therefore, we speak of designation by resurrection.
In this message we need to consider the matter of resurrection in some detail. We shall not look at it objectively, from the standpoint of doctrine, but subjectively, from the standpoint of the experience of life. Romans 6:5 speaks of the experience of resurrection. This verse says that we share in the likeness of Christ’s resurrection. Some students of the Word have said that the resurrection mentioned here is the first resurrection spoken of in Revelation 20:4 and 5. But I do not believe that this is Paul’s understanding of resurrection here. Paul is not saying that we must wait until the millennium to participate in the resurrection of Christ. In 6:5 Paul says that we have grown together with Christ in the likeness of His death and that we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection. This does not refer to a future, objective resurrection, but it refers to our present experience of Christ’s resurrection life. We should not regard the resurrection merely as a future event, as Martha did in John 11. The Lord Jesus told her that He was the resurrection and the life (v. 25). His word indicates that there is no need for us to wait until a future day to have Him as resurrection. Resurrection is not a matter of time or place; it is a matter of Christ. If we have Him, we have resurrection. But if we do not have Him, we do not have resurrection life, neither now nor in the future. Hallelujah, resurrection is Jesus, the Son of God! As long as we have Jesus Christ, we have resurrection, no matter where we may be.
What a difference there is between the doctrinal teaching regarding resurrection and the subjective revelation of Christ as resurrection! What we need today is not the objective teaching about resurrection, but the subjective, living, up-to-date experience of Christ as resurrection.
To say that Christ is resurrection means that Christ is the life-power. Resurrection is life-power. With life there are the life-essence, the life-shape, and the life-power. Firstly we have the life-essence and then we have the life-power. Following this, we have the life-shape, the life-form. Resurrection is Christ being the life-power to us. This is a very significant matter.
In 1936 I paid a visit to one of the leading universities in China. One of the students spoke to me about his difficulty in believing in resurrection. He told me that due to his modern scientific knowledge he could not believe. To him, resurrection was against scientific truth. Outside of the room where we were meeting there was a wheat field. Drawing his attention to the wheat growing in the field, I pointed out that the wheat was produced by some grains of seed that were buried in the earth. I told him that, in a sense, those seeds died, but that now they had come forth in resurrection as wheat. Through that illustration of death and resurrection, this young man was saved. Now he is one of the leading co-workers in Taiwan. This illustration shows that resurrection is a matter of life-power.
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